No you do not. You can use Microsoft Points to purchase Arcade games, DLC add-ons, movies, etc.. when you are a free user. You need GOLD when you want to use Netflix. play online games over Live, talk in parties, etc.
if u want to use there actual online services such as accessing there servers then yes but no u can do everything elsewith out it gold is oly for those who want acces to there servers as in playing online